Philadelphia's best specials include a juicy cheese steak topped with Whiz, a tasty snack on a crispy bun, and a slice of freshly baked tomato pie sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.
Philly's Best Iconic Food Is Cheesy Steak. Invented by Pat's Steaks' Pat Olivieri in 1930 and imitated by many, a true Philadelphia cheesy steak requires thinly sliced meat and a crispy bun. But the choice of Provolone, American or Cheez Whiz cheese is a topic of great debate.
This is the choice of the sandwich shop. The long-standing dispute between Pat's King of Steaks and its rival across the street Geno's Steaks draws thousands of visitors to Ninth Street and Passyunk Avenue to savor. Other places like Dalessandro's Steaks and Hoagies, John's Roast Pork, Joe's Steak+ Soda Shop, Steve's Prince of Steaks, Tony Luke's, Jim's Steaks and Max's Steaks also have an impressive number of devoted fans. Your next best cheesy steak awaits you with our guide to where to find them in Philadelphia.
It may not be as well known as cheesy steak or hoagie, but the roast pork sandwich, a regional Italian-American standout, is undoubtedly a signature Philadelphia sandwich. Tender baked pork shoulder, usually shaved or chopped, is topped with melted sharp provolone cheese and broccoli rabe sauce sautéed with garlic on an Italian roll. John's Roast Pork, Tony Luke's, George's Sandwich Shop and Dinic's Roast Pork offer stellar classic interpretations evident in their long customer lines. Find more grilled pork sandwiches in our guide.
The sandwich, Philadelphia's signature answer to the sub or hero, comes filled with fresh meats, cheeses and vegetables or some variation of these ingredients. Bread quality is paramount, with local bakeries like Amoroso's or Sarcone delivering fresh rolls every day to stores across the city. A local sandwich chain, Primo Hoagies, has built a small empire with dozens of stores all over the East Coast. Liberty Kitchen PHL and Pastificio Deli are quality options, and Angelo's Pizzeria South Philly regularly has a line at the door for their coveted sandwiches and pastries.
For fans of extreme snacks, the nationally lauded Pizzeria Beddia has a secret snack room that groups can book for a “hoagie omakase” tasting menu experience. Read our guide to the best sandwiches in Philadelphia to learn more. While its name is somewhat confusing, water ice (pronounced “wooden ice” by some locals) is the perfect dessert or snack for hot summer days in the city. Also known as Italian ice, the combination of fruit or syrup with finely crushed ice is a refreshing treat.
John's Water Ice, Mancuso & Son and Rose's Real Italian Water Ice are just a few of the favorites of yesteryear, while charming suburban options like Yardley Ice House surprise with a variety of flavors. Siddiq's Water Ice, based in West Philadelphia, specializes in creative flavors such as strawberry, melon and white grape daiquiri, and D'Emili's Old World Ice Treats is a gourmet treat on East Passyunk Avenue. And let's not forget Rita, Philadelphia's water ice ambassador. Visitors would be struggling to find a Philadelphian who doesn't have good things to say about Butterscotch Krimpets or cream-filled chocolate cupcakes.
Tastykakes have been Philadelphia's favorite sweet treat for more than a century. Tastykakes can be ordered directly from the bakery or can be found at any local convenience store, such as the popular Wawa chain. A mixture of pork, spices and cornmeal, scrapple is a crispy, fried breakfast meat native to the Pennsylvania Dutch (who, in fact, are of German or German origin). Today, scrapple can be found in greasy spoon diners and breakfast spots such as Dutch Eating Place and Down Home Diner, both in the popular Reading Terminal Market.
Some of the best-known suppliers of real scrap metal are Godshall Quality Meats, Habbersett and Hatfield, although many restaurants make their own versions at home. Popularized in the region during the 19th century, pork roll, also known as Taylor ham, is a sausage-like breakfast meat that is usually served on a roll with eggs and cheese. This Philly favorite (also loved by New Jerseyans) competes with scraping as the locals' favorite breakfast meat. Food is Serious Business in Philadelphia.
Many people are familiar with iconic Philadelphia foods, such as water ice cream, steaks and cheese, and pretzels, which have their revered place for good reason. Beyond those favorite foods, the city also has a vibrant food scene of varied cuisines and specialties. The wonder of soft pretzels and how they are eaten at any time of the day, especially for breakfast, was one of the first peculiarities we knew about Philadelphia food. Pretzels are a standard part of the diet here, even with morning coffee.
You can find soft pretzels all over the city. The Philadelphia pretzel factory is a mainstay thanks to its many locations, but true pretzel connoisseurs opt for Center City Pretzel, which has been manufacturing them reliably for more than 20 years. We also love the softer, buttery “Amish” pretzels, which you can see being made daily at Miller's Twist in Reading Terminal Market. Philadelphia may be best known for its steaks and cheese, but it's the roasted pork sandwich that gets the praise.
This regional specialty includes oven-roasted pork shoulder, melted provolone cheese and garlic broccoli rabe, all served on a sesame seed roll. Many purists would probably call it the best food in Philadelphia. Cheese steak is synonymous with Philadelphia. This icon of Philadelphia food has been replicated in the United States and around the world, but there is only one city where you can eat them from teachers.
Pat's and Geno's on East Passyunk Avenue are the best known nationally and most popular with tourists, but many locals have other favorites. Jim's, Dalessandro's, Philip's and Steve's Prince of Steaks are near the top of the list for most Philly natives. Check out our detailed guide to the best cheesy steak in Philadelphia. For nearly 100 years, Termini Brothers Bakery has been making incredible Italian sweets such as nougat, lobster tails and zeppoli.
But cannoli is what they're really known for. With its crispy, perfectly fried peels and its fluffy filling of ricotta cheese, vanilla or Italian chocolate cream, this cannoli will make you feel like you've gone straight to Sicily. The homegrown convenience store chain not only has good gas prices, but it also has a full menu of made-to-order food and drinks that many rely on. Wawa has customizable snacks, melted sourdough, quesadillas and specialty beverages at reasonable prices and available 24 hours a day.
If you're visiting in the fall, look for the eater, it's basically Thanksgiving in a roll. It seems to be encoded in the DNA of the people here. Caramel krimpets, peanut butter filled kandy kakes, sticky honey buns — these are the things Philadelphia dreams are made of. Go to the local convenience store chain Wawa or any local grocery store and try some.
Besides, that thing that wawa does, take it from a true Philadelphia icon, it's not a Hoagie. The best steaks and cheese according to a local. Since 1959, this family-owned pizzeria has been baking pies in a square pan with the sauce spread over the cheese. Get it alone or with any of their special toppings, such as ham and broccoli rabe.
Everyone has their favorite, but the people at Pat's (who claim to be the inventor of the famous sandwich) have enough business for 24 hours a day. Make sure you order correctly with or without (onions); alone, Cheez Wiz, Provolone, or American Cheese and remember it's cash only. With such constant lines, you know it must be good. The tender, slow-cooked lamb barbecue is served in homemade tortillas.
Try one and you'll know why they open at 5 a. m. Even after a decade on the food scene, their incredible doughnuts and twice-fried chicken are still sold out. As a nationally renowned restaurant that has been part of the burden for exceptional Israeli food in the United States, Zahav is one of Philadelphia's top sources of pride.
Best Places to Eat Cheese Steaks, Injera, Pho, Water Ice Cream, and More of Philly's Most Iconic Meals. For 15 years, the staple food of the Old City has served its gambas al ajillo (shrimp al ajillo) to voracious diners looking for a Spanish seafood dish. The homegrown convenience store chain not only has good gas prices, but it also has a full menu of made-to-order food and drinks that many trust. As many of the items on this list of iconic Philadelphia foods show, the city has been heavily influenced by Italian immigrants who arrived here in the early 20th century.
In Philadelphia, it's a reduced version of pizza, Italian bakery dough, tomato sauce and, depending on who orders it, a cup of cheese. This modest corner of South Philadelphia has been serving incredible Indonesian food for the past 20 years. Given Philadelphia's rich Italian-American heritage, it's no surprise that some of the best salsa roja spots can be found here. Developed in 1856 by a Trenton butcher named John Taylor (duh), this porky product was sold as “Taylor Ham” until it fell outside the ham standards set by the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. True Philadelphians know that the stew is unctuous and rich and that it's unlike anything you can find in Philadelphia.